Pool is not golf. Golfers make money. In golf the players we see every weekend on TV are the world’s best. The purses and perks of sponsorship are so high it is fair to assume that anyone who has game and can handle the pressure is sure to be rich and famous. The monolithic structure of the PGA Tour and powerhouse companies like Nike and Titleist have partnered (colluded?) to create pervasive brands for the game’s greats that posit an American myth for us to vicariously participate in.
Pool has no Nike. Pool players make no money. They bargain away their amazing skills for a pittance. Prize monies in top events are chillingly low and the best a top player can hope for from a sponsor is a kind of indentured servitude. The game’s beauty, its subtlety, is a tree falling in a forest, a shout into the wind. Pool players have real jobs and do not ski in the off-season. There is no off-season.
For some, this is lamentable. I believe it is our game’s great strength. Pool lives in rumor; tales of local players never flushed out by big purses and promises of corporate jets. Our history is populated with tantalizing footnotes. Guys who rarely left their home rooms and were as good as any, guys like James Evans, Mike Eufemia, Abe Rosen, and Gene Nagy live in lore, in testimony as surely sworn to as it is inaccurate.
At last month’s World’s Straight Pool Tournament in New York City one of these guys was inaugurated into the game’s hall of fame. Danny Barouty is a legend among New York straight pool players. In his game resides something like genius. His intellect, creativity and grit have inspired a generation of players including George “Ginky” Sansouci, Steve Lipsky, Mika Immonen, Tony Robles, Michael Yednak, and this writer. Every time Danny plays it is an insight into the highest reaches of our game. I can personally attest. One night at Amsterdam Billiards he poured a 245 ball run over me. It was awesome. Danny is tough. He teaches by example and commands respect.
Congratulations Danny. Although you will never be fitted for a green jacket, hoist a Claret Jug or be filmed lingering upon an old stone bridge at St. Andrews, or any other crap that golf dreams up, and history may record you as a footnote, for all of us who call you teacher and friend, the beautiful present we live in is enough.